Saint Louis University Opens Neuroscience Research Institute

Institute for Translational Neuroscience work to include chronic neuropathic pain

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by Mary Chapman |

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With an overarching goal of improving patients’ health and life quality, Saint Louis University (SLU) has opened an institute for neuroscience researchers working in a variety of fields to study disorders of the central nervous system, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Institute for Translational Neuroscience (ITN), an outgrowth of the Henry and Amelia Nasrallah Center for Neuroscience at SLU, pulls together experts in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, social justice, and community outreach, a university press release reported.

In science, translation is the process of transforming observations made in the lab, clinic, and community into interventions that improve health.

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Institute goal is to ‘solve some of our most difficult medical challenges’

Work by preclinical and clinical investigators at the institute is expected to address areas such as cognition, Alzheimer’s disease, opioids, metabolism, traumatic brain injury, and chronic neuropathic pain, including that related to MS.

It will be directed by Daniela Salvemini, PhD, whose SLU startup, BioIntervene, recently raised $30 million to advance development of potential treatments for pain and neuroinflammatory diseases.

“ITN will foster collaboration, enterprise, and innovation by connecting our neuroscientists with their colleagues and allow us to focus our resources to support these researchers,” said Salvemini, PhD, chair of the university’s department of pharmacology and physiology.

Research goals for ITN investigators and clinicians are reported to include:

  • Understanding the mechanisms behind chronic pain to develop better and safer, non-opioid pain medications;
  • Understanding how age-related dementias, genetic nervous system disorders, and injuries due to stroke or trauma cause disease, and translating findings into therapies to delay or prevent dementia, and to promote recovery from injury;
  • Targeting molecular pathways that control appetite behaviors, diabetes, and other conditions;
  • Improving neuropsychiatric conditions in underserved communities through the identification of new ways to lessen the effects of factors such as stress and aging on cognitive function; and
  • Developing novel ways to translate basic research discoveries into clinical practice.

More than 100 people in 23 departments across six SLU schools and colleges, including principal investigators, trainees, and staff, are working at the institute. Research opportunities will also be extended to SLU students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

“We are educating the next generation of scientists who will solve some of our most difficult medical challenges,” said Fred Pestello, PhD, SLU’s president. “They will be the ones who find new ways to heal traumatic brain injuries, maintain strong cognition as we age, and reduce the suffering caused by chronic pain.”

Salvemini expects the ITN’s innovation and education-driven approach to spur collaboration and to attract federal and corporate funding. An advocacy and outreach committee will work to engage the neuroscience community and promote the field.

“It’s clear that this is a crucial time to invest in multiple avenues of research and discovery, and to reap the benefits of synergistic collaboration and a unified focus. I believe we are poised to make great contributions to the field of neuroscience,” Salvemini said.

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